Tuesday, November 30, 2010

This Bean has gained Broader Appeal

The truth is that I did not grow up a lover of hyacinth beans, aka: avarakkai; vaal; bulay (Tagalog); or đậu ván (vietnamese), actually I detested them after we grew a variety one summer that had the most awful stench to the growing bean pods. As “chief picker” it was my responsibility to assist my grandma pick the pods off the vines and no matter what I soap I used I was unable to wash the awful smelling natural oils coating the pods from my hands after picking, which made me despise these beans all through my childhood. However decades later while living in Singapore I rediscovered these beans cooked Nepali style and I instantly fell in love with the vegetable. Thankfully the beans no longer have any off-smelling oils to them nowadays!

The beauty of this dish lies in its simplicity; finely chopped beans, finely diced potatoes, tons of grated garlic and voila……….a dish that sure to please the most difficult of palates. I enjoy Nepali vegetarian cuisine as I feel they tend to focus on the flavor of vegetables without drowning a dish with a variety of herbs and spices. Another addition that makes this dish a winner is the use of Potatoes, now who can resist that in any form? I’ve enclosed some nutritive facts about the beans and hope that you will give this vegetable a chance at your dining table.

Lablab, are a variety of beans native to South East Asia. These beans, like its cousins are very easy to grow and are tremendously nutritious, Broad beans are good sources of protein, fibre, vitamins A and C, potassium and iron. They also contain levodopa (L-dopa), a chemical the body uses to produce dopamine (the neurotransmitter associated with the brain's reward and motivation system). A study has found that regions of the world that consume considerable amounts of broad beans in their diet also have lower cases of epilepsy.

Aloo Sem Nepali Style
1 lb lablab/broad beans, rinsed and chopped finely
½ lb potatoes, rinsed and chopped into small cubes with skin on
½ a pod of garlic, peeled and grated (approx 2-3 tbsp)
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
2-3 tsp oil
Juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
Salt to taste
A sprig of curry leaves (optional)
Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and allow them to sputter, add curry leaves, grated garlic, turmeric, red chilli powder, salt and chopped potatoes. Cover and cook on low heat for about 5-10 minutes. When the potates are almost cooked add the chopped beans and sprinkle some water, cover and cook on low heat for another 10 minutes. Add lime juice when done. Serve with cooked white rice or serve on a toasted multigrain bread slice.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Creativity comes in many colors - mine is called Manarola

My connections with Italy began early in my childhood, it could have started with my first bite of pizza, or while caressing the fabulous ox blood red coral beads my grandmother showed me from her treasure box. Needless to say the love affair had started and continued to build up, Baroque music, art and architecture that flourished under the de Medici family or lately my fondness for Gucci shoes, Dolce and Gabbana sunglasses, Versace dinnerware or Statuario marble flooring.

It is my desire to spend a few years in Italy once in this lifetime, so I secretly take time to practice Italian and dream of Cinque Terra. I often dream of strolling down the Via dell’ Amore (aka blue path) to arrive at Manarola. A picture says a thousand words and here is where I want to be.

While I can’t be there right now, enjoying the wonderful mediterranean climate and cuisine of fresh produce and herbs I made this tomato soup in honor of Manarola, quite literally, don’t you think?

Zuppa di pomodoro alla Manarola con crostini

2lbs/1kg fresh ripe tomatoes
2 med sized onions finely chopped
2-4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil + 2 tbsp butter
1 tsp sugar
½ cup milk or cream
3 fresh thyme sprigs (optional)
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
¼ cup basil leaves, chopped
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

Blanch tomatoes to remove the skin and set aside. Heat olive oil and butter and sauté garlic and onions until they turn translucent. Blend cooked onion and garlic along with tomatoes, milk/cream, spices thyme and basil leaves. Heat the blended mix on a low flame and serve warm with crostini.

Slice favourite bread into slices and generously apply butter and grill until golden, top with parmesan cheese.


This recipe has been submitted for the event, Healing foods, created by Siri of Siri's Corner and hosted by Padmajha of Seduce Your Tastebuds.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Season to keep old memories alive

Time: 5:30am. I woke up. It was cool outside and the breeze came through with a whoosh as I flung open the windows. It was raining.

Standing by the window and looking at the rain made me think of my childhood - spent in Bombay………the rains came down in sheets. Everything around me took on this wonderful silver hue at daybreak. The fragrance of fresh rain and earth made for a heady perfume.

I like the rains.

Overwhelmed, I ran out the door. Standing in the rain, drenched to my bones in utter silence…….what an incredible feeling it was.

I wanted, no needed a bowl of hari moong ki dal. During the monsoons, my mother often made a Mung bean dal that really warmed our cold bones and souls too…..thanks, mom!

Now that I’m back in India and experiencing a monsoon after two decades I just had to make this moong dal from my childhood memories, of course it does not taste half as nice as the one my mom makes, but maybe she will come visit me next monsoon…..wink wink, mom are you listening?

Whole green mung beans are fairly easy to find at most grocers and let’s face it, beans mean lean, so you can have a big bowlful and not feel guilty. I’ve found this dal tastes better when eaten with a hearty bread that sops up the liquid gravy and still holds its texture.

Monsoon Moong Dal

100 gms/ ¼ lb Whole green mung beans, washed and soaked for an hour (if you have the time)
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, finely chopped (Roma, if available)
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
½ inch piece of ginger, chopped
1 green chilli, chopped
4-8 curry leaves (optional)
2 tsp coriander leaves, chopped
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp turmeric powder
¼ tsp red chili powder
½ tsp cumin seed powder
½ tsp coriander powder
2-3 tsp oil
Salt to taste

Boil the soaked Mung beans and cook until al-dente. Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan and add the cumin seeds, allow it to sputter, then add the garlic, green chilli, ginger and cook on a medium flame until the onions turn pink. Add to chopped tomatoes and spice powders. Cook until the tomatoes are pulpy. Add the cooked mung beans and cook on a low flame for 10-15 minutes, or until the beans have softened but still retain their shape. Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves before serving.
This recipe has been submitted for the event, My Legume Love Affair (MLLA-24), created by Susan of the The Well-Seasoned Cook and hosted by Diana of A little bit of Spain in Iowa

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A slippery situation

Mention Okra and you will find many people who love to hate it - the reason that this crisp vegetable gets a bad rap is because: (a) Ooze - if the vegetable is damp from rinsing it will ooze while cooking; (b) if it is overcooked it will turn gelatinous.

Be good to yourself and indulge in this vegetable, or more like: Indulge as much as you can.
The reason is simple. Okra or ladies fingers (british english name), you're doing yourself a favor. Okra has lots of vitamin C and plenty of B vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium, potassium and calcium. It also is high in fiber.

Once treasured as a delicacy in Moorish Spain, this vegetable had its origin in Ethiopia. From that ancient land, it traveled north to the Mediterranean shores and east to India.

As children our grandmother encouraged us to eat our okra as it said to increase brain power! Research now shows that okra contains a fair amount of folic acid which helps prevent neural tube defects in developing fetuses….not an old wife’s tale after all.

I make okra quite regularly as my husband enjoys it and here is one version of the vegetable side dish I make. I am often asked what is the magic to making this delicious dish? It is quite straightforward and that is the honest truth! I hope you can enjoy the simplicity of this dish.

Kale Aloo Bhindi


1 lbs okra / ladiesfinger, rinsed and completely dry (not a spot of moisture) and cut into 1 inch pieces
½ lbs potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 + ½ tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp red chili powder (optional)
2 tsp Amchur powder (dry mango powder) or 2 tsp lime juice
2 - 4 tsp oil
Salt to taste

Heat a pan and broil the coriander seeds and 1 tsp of the cumin seeds. Cool and powder. Heat oil in a pan and add ½ tsp cumin seeds and allow to sputter. Add the turmeric powder and chopped potatoes. Cook on a low flame until the potatoes are ¾ cooked. Add the okra, cumin/coriander powder, chili powder (optional), lime juice and salt. Cover and cook until the okra is tender but still firm. Serve warm on ciabatta bread with garlic aioli or with roti’s and dal.
This recipe has been submitted for the event Green Gourmet, created and hosted by Preeti of Write Food

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jack be nimble………put to the test

Let me give you a little background.

Vasantha mami, a person whom I TOTALLY adore lives with her daughter in the neighborhood. In their huge urban backyard amongst many delightful plants is a jackfruit tree that has several fruits ripening on it. On a recent visit with them, I was the recipient of ¼ of a fruit (each fruit can weigh up to 30-60kgs when fully ripe) since this was a “smaller” one, the piece weighed maybe 2-3 kgs. After the fruit was cut open we realized that it was not completely ripe!

Here is my 10 year old son holding on to a fruit on the tree

Once cut we had to either consume it or throw it away……(not an option for me) so in this semi ripe stage I decided to make a dish with it and decided to blog about it anyway (I’m not sure how many people in the virtual world have access to this strictly tropical fruit found only in parts of south east Asia) it was an experiment with a happy ending. The dish tasted delightful and had an interesting texture to - not crisp or soft, but pleasingly mealy, so here goes.

Jackfruit Subzi
1 kg peeled jackfruit (about 12-15 individual segments)
3 medium sized potato, peeled and cubed into 2 inch pieces
2 – 3 medium sized onions, finely chopped
3 – 4 medium tomatoes, chopped
3 – 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
Small knob of ginger, chopped
2 green chilies, slit down the center
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp red chili powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Juice of one lime
2-4 tsp oil
1 – 2 cups water
Salt to taste

Peel the jackfruit and separate the individual sections. Remove the small seed in the center of the fruit, wash, chop into cubes and set aside. Heat oil, add the garlic, onion, ginger, salt and cook until the onion turns deep pink/red. Add tomatoes and all the dry powders and cook until pulpy. Add the jackfruit, potato water, cover and cook on a low flame until both the jackfruit and potatoes are softened. Add lime juice and coriander leaves, serve warm.


This recipe has been submitted for the event Green Gourmet, created and hosted by Preeti of Write Food

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Feel my Pulse

As much as I love to have variety in my food, my heart yearns for a large bowl of dal with plain white rice. Once a week I make a family favorite – Traditional Gujarati sweet and sour tur dal which I like to serve with plain white cooked rice, roasted papad and a salad of finely chopped cucumber, onion, tomato, cilantro and dressed with the juice of fresh lime & salt…….that’s all that’s needed, to feed my soul.

This dal can morph into another dish called Dal Dhokli instantly! The recipe is exactly the same, excepting that I add small bite sized pieces of cooked/uncooked chappati and boil it in the dal for a few minutes prior to serving, making it an excellent dish to be served on cool winter nights or on days when one feels low and needs an instant boost (i.e., when retail therapy is not condusive).

Gujarati sweet and sour tur dal
1 cup uncooked tur dal
3-4 tsp peanuts, skin removed
1 medium sized tomato, finely chopped
1-2 green chilies, slit
1 dried red chili (optional)
6-8 cloves
1-2 inch piece of cinnamon
1 tsp cumin seeds
¾ tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of asafetida
½ tsp turmeric
2- Kokum skins, or 1 tsp tamarind paste, or juice of 1 lime
2-4 tsp jaggery/brown sugar, depending on your taste
Few curry leaves
2tsp chopped coriander leaves
1 tsp oil
1 tsp ghee or unsalted butter
Salt to taste


Wash tur dal well and add 4-5 cups water, turmeric and peanuts. Cook this in a pressure cooker for 15-18 minutes or in a dutch oven for 30-45 minutes or until the dal has completely disintegrated. Whisk the mixture and set aside.

In a another cooking pot add oil and ghee and bring to a smoke, add dried red chili, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaves, green chilies (in the exact order) and allow the seeds to sputter. Add the chopped tomato and cook until pulpy (about 1-2 minutes). Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Add the dal mixture the kokum skins/tamarind juice if available. Allow this to simmer on a med-low flame for about 15 minutes, add the jaggery and cook for a few more minutes. Remove from fire, add lime juice and coriander leaves. Serve warm with rice or roti’s.

This recipe has been submitted for the event – Delicious Dal’s from India, hosted by Suma of Veggie Platter

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bean me up, Scotty

Utter silence on Virtual Vegetarian doesn't mean that my life has drifted into oblivion – it’s quite the contrary! The beginning of the year saw a change of residence…we moved from the US of A to India and I’ve been neck deep in trying to rehabilitate into the “Indian psyche” and let me tell you….it is more difficult than what I imagined it to be, considering I had lived here for the first decade and half of my life! Apparently things have changed so much that I seem to have been stuck in the late eighties, when things were very different from modern day liberalized India.

Amongst the various changes in my life, one has been that I now have a cook (yeah!!!!!) and so I am not cooking as much, excepting for the occasional soup/pasta/Indian Chinese. However Sunday is the weekly day off for the cook and so I do cherish cooking some of my favorite dishes. This week I made my favorite Kala Masala Channa, AKA Chole.

The dish is quite simple and can be made with either pre-soaked Kabuli chana (Garbanzo bean) or the canned variety, it has a very light gravy, softened beans, tongue tickling flavor and a wholesome brunch item. I particularly favor this recipe as it involves very little prep work and does not use onions/garlic/heavy masala which is what one associates with like an Amritsari Chole, Pindi channa or Peshawari Chole. I usually serve it with either a good sour dough bread or white rice/Pulao.

An addition unique to my Chole is the use of ENO fruit salt (non flavored) instead of regular baking powder/soda which help facilitate the breakdown of the tough outer skin of the Kabuli Chana / Garbanzo bean, which is often the culprit for the gassy feeling or the dreaded flatulence one gets after consuming legumes/beans. ENO can be used for cooking any type of beans and does not alter the taste of a dish, plus it reduces the cooking time of beans considerably.

ENO, for those of you who do not know what a fruit salt is, it is a mix of Sodium Bicarbonate (46.4%), Citric Acid (43.6%), Sodium Carbonate (10%). It is not as sensitive to food formations as straight Sodium Bicarbonate plus it does not have that "aftertaste" that Sodium Bicarbonate has. ENO can be puchased at an Indian grocer or online at Amazon.

Kala Masala Channa – Chole

150 gms dry Kabuli Chana, soaked overnight or 2 cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
3 tbsp cumin seeds
3 tbsp coriander seeds
3 tbsp chaat masala (Everest or Roopak brands)
2-3 tsp oil (groundnut/olive)
2 green chilies, slit
2 tsp ENO fruit salt if available
Salt to taste

Toast cumin and coriander seeds in a skillet until the spices are blackened (will look burnt), cool and grind to a fine powder. Heat oil in a pressure cooker or a heavy bottom pan, add the ground spice blend and allow it to sizzle for 20-30 seconds. Add the soaked legumes and about 4-6 cups of water, salt, green chilies and ENO fruit salt (since it is an effervescent it will sizzle). Cover and cook for 15-22 minutes in a pressure cooker or if you are using a dutch oven (highly recommended) cover and cook on a low flame for an hour or until the beans have softened (you should be able to squeeze a bean without effort between two fingers). Mash a few of the beans with the back of the ladle against the pan and bring to slow simmer or until the gravy has thickened. Sprinkle Chaat masala and coriander leaves (optional) before serving.

This recipe has been submitted for the event, Cooking with Seeds - Cumin Seeds an event created by Priya of Priya's Easy and Tasty Recipes, and hosted by Saraswathi of Sara's Corner.

In addition this recipe has also been submitted to the event, My Legume Love Affair (MLLA-23), hosted by Susan of the The Well-Seasoned Cook.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Gourd of Good

Happy New Year!!!!

I've been missing from the blog scene for a while now due to drastic changes in my life (all good changes, I assure you) and as you have probably guessed - part of my NY resolution is to regularly update my blog and so without further ado....(drumroll please) here is something to wish you much peace and joy in the coming year!

Poritha Kootu, is a traditional coconut based gravy dish served in most south Indian households. The gravy stays constant, however the main vegetable can be substituted with any locally available gourd like zucchini or french beans, or potato, or mixed vegetables of your choice.

Poritha Kootu

1 lb Snake gourd, chopped
½ cup tuar dal – cooked
½ tsp turmeric powder
2 tbsp grated coconut meat
2 + 1 dried red chillies
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Urad dal
1 tsp whole black pepper
1//2 tsp whole black mustard seeds
4-6 green curry leaves (optional)
Pinch of asafoetida
Cooked seeds of ripe jackfruit (totally optional, but I used them as I had some on hand)
Salt to taste


Cut snake gourd into half and then into quarters lengthwise, remove seeds and dice into ¼ inch pieces, cook in the microwave with ¾ cup water and turmeric powder and salt for 5-8 minutes, or until slightly tender. Heat 2 tsp of oil in a pan on medium heat add 2 whole red chilies, pepper, 1 tbsp urad dal and cook until the dal turns golden, add the grated coconut and cook for another minute. Grind this mixture into a fine paste with 1-2 tbsp water. Add this paste to the cooked gourd and cooked tuar dal (and add the cooked jackfruit seeds). Add a pinch of asafetida and bring to a boil. In another small pan heat 2 tsp of oil and when it smokes add a whole red chilli, whole mustard seeds, 1 tsp urad dal and curry leaves and allow the seeds to sputter, pour this over the gourd/paste mixture and serve warm with steamed white rice, roti/chappati or a good sourdough bread.